Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Month to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving Day, 2013

I woke to the most beautiful sunrise which I viewed from the warmth and comfort of my own bed, with my head on my own pillow… with a 180 degree view of the incredible desert, all natural (no other campers in view). ...I am thankful for that view, for my bed, for being able to leave the passenger side rear door open at night to watch the stars from my bed and let the sun shine or my forehead first thing in the morning.

Rachel visits Camp Swankie

I am thankful too for the moonrise I got to witness at about 3am… out that same door. I saw a bright light on the horizon… and took my binoculars to see what it was… and it was not a star. It was a crescent moon just peaking up over the horizon of mountains… and there were rays of light like sun rays though the clouds, but the rays were coming from around the moon. I tried to memorize how it looked so I might be able to sketch it. I could see the dark side of the moon in shadow… and watched it lift off from the horizon. Amazing. I am thankful for the moon, and my bed and my pillow and my binoculars, and the sky and stars and moon and then this morning a sun so bright and clear I could not even glance at it for a split second. I have never seen the sky so clear and bright.

I am also thankful for the amazing sunset I witnessed last night. My photos do not do it justice. I didn’t know which way to look or what to photograph… 360 degrees of awesomeness. I wish my camera was better. It’s beyond my verbal abilities to describe that sunset. And I was thankful for the fresh clean air last night and the moderate temperatures which gave me a really good night sleep.

And today, it is warm and the sky is clear and blue… and I will be spending the day with some vandwellers in the desert East of Quartzsite, enjoying a good meal and good fellowship. I am thankful for vandwellers (wherever they are), and the desert and Quartzsite (… oh, and rocks tee hee). And I am thankful it won’t be cold at dinner today like it was last year.

Jerry and a couple of his dogs I sketched.

And far away in California, I am thankful for the old clients and dear friends I can’t be with this holiday, but I am there with them in spirit. I wish I could be in Monterey kayaking the Bay or even better in Morro Bay, kayaking there. I wish I could spend this day with all the people I miss and love.

And lastly, I am thankful for my family, Richard, Rhonda, Tori, Chris, Jenelle, Zoey and Will Bailey and all the other Baileys who are my in-laws. I hope you all have a great day this day, and know that I love and miss you all. I am especially thankful for being the Mom of two such great young men as Chris and Richard Bailey.


And I am thankful they have given me three beautiful grandchildren… and I’d be even more thankful if I could be the Grandma to them that my dear Grandma Smith was to me.

1968_van_grandma_boys001 My angelic grandmother with my sons in 1968.

That would truly be heaven on earth and the only thing that could possibly make today any better than it is already.

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Left: Granddaughter Tori, and
Right: Jenelle, Chris, and grandkids Will and Zoey.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone one of you… even if you don’t celebrate this holiday.


Just before a three day rain hit, the ranger at the Long Term Visitor Area where I had sat up camp, came by and said I had to move closer to a vault toilet since I didn’t have a 10 gallon holding tank.  So I moved within a few feet of one… before the rains began then I just kept loaded up to wait out the weather.


In a different Long Term Visitor Area, I found a great site with a huge tree, and a 180 degree view eastward of the wide open desert.  That night as I was getting comfortable for my first night, a test run to see if I like the spot, a large bird landed in my very large tree.  I could not make out what it was, but am sure it was a bird of prey.


The sunset was very nice and I felt comfortable in this location, so next day, I began setting up camp again.  I pray I am not asked to move again.  I am about .03 hundredths of a mile too far from the vault toilet, but I use my portable anyway, so it should not be irrelevant.  I like this location, I’m on the edge of the area where people camp.


Out out comes the rug, and the rocks… and I begin getting organized for working with rocks, the reason I am in Quartzsite.


This will become a bolo tie for a friend.


Here are some other rocks I have trimmed down to begin grinding and polishing.


And of course, out comes the solar oven at every opportunity.


There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the beautiful sunrises and sunsets out here.


One week, I got to help Rachel Smith with her van… making dark curtains to replace the light daisy pattern curtains.  LaVonne Ellis came to visit while we worked.  Doug Begley came by a couple times to visit as well.  Here I sit in the middle of the desert and it’s like Grand Central Station.



And I am grateful for being able to make Rachel’s van warmer and more comfortable.  Before she left we visited the Indian Petroglyphs and she sang Annie’s Song for me again, while we watched the sunrise.  Below the crest of the hill were grinding holes the Indians used for nuts and grain.  Also there was a rock shelter behind the trees where Indians may have taken shelter from the intense desert heat and strong winds. I want to learn more about these people.



But the very best part of living in a van, is being able to watch sunsets and sunrises from my own very comfortable bed, looking out the back door of my van.


It just doesn’t get any better (or more beautiful than this) until tomorrow.

I invite you all to follow along on this website or on Facebook (  I will be going to Hawaii in May 2014 to complete my 50-state kayaking adventure. You are invited to come along.  Contact me for details.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.